Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Matthew 10:24-39
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 7-Sunday between June 19 and 25 Inclusive)
analysis by Michael Hoy

24A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

DIAGNOSIS: Putting our lives first

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Denial-problems
The disciples of Jesus have “second thoughts” about the mission to which he calls them and sends them out (see last Sunday’s pericope). The second thoughts are connected to their family ties. It may even look like pretty good reasoning on the surface of things — seeking to keep peace in the family, avoiding making any waves. In fact, Jesus’ “sword” imagery may seem like the more violent approach. No wonder people demonized him (the reference to Beelzebul in v. 25). So their tendency is, perhaps ever so slightly, to deny Jesus, or to somehow make Jesus fit into the family circle (even though he may not fit so neatly), or somehow justify their existence before the family.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Fear
Under the surface is their own fear of being demonized by the family, regarded as a black sheep, or having the family vent some anger in their direction. The fear of being isolated or destroyed consumes their souls, rendering them incapable of making a faithful witness.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Destroyed
There are worse threats, however, for these fearful ones. God can destroy more than the body — God can cut out the soul from the kingdom. And that they are not fearing as much. But the threat is no less imminent in their denying, fearful lives.

PROGNOSIS: Putting our lives on the front-lines

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: Spared
What spares them from destruction, however, is the sparrow-sparing, hair-counting Lord, who offers himself up to the hands of destruction (by kin and by God), in order to rescue one and all from the wrath to come. His “sword” on which he will not compromise, it turns out, is the gospel — and it is not a matter of compromise, because we are too important to let it be compromised. Kin may deny us, but God will not in our connected-ness with this life-giving Lord.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Finding Life
Hence, that is where, by faith, we find our life. We don’t need to hold on to ours so tightly, because Christ has given us the authority to let go and to grasp on to him instead. Our own confessing and acknowledging Christ is an exclamation of our faith that our real life-line is not to be found in family blood-lines, but in the blood-line that has come from Christ’s cross and resurrection.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Proclaiming Life
So confess we do, in this promising Lord. We proclaim it openly and honestly, and with no holds barred. And if that means that we get in trouble for being Christ-proclaimers and Christ-promoters (Jesus seems to suggest the likelihood of that outcome), so be it. For those who persecute the Christ-confessors for being so goyish, there is still the witness of our free and unbounded lives; and the world cannot help but notice that freedom — and maybe want to be part of that family!


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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.


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